Ethiopia Prime minister Abiy Ahmed stated the country has “no intention to harm” neighouring Egypt and Sudan.
Comments that come after months of negociations over the Renaissance Dam, situated upstream of the two countries, have failed to produce any agreement.
Egypt has warned the Dam project could have devastating effects on its economy. As the Nile river’s flow would be diminished to fill up the dam’s reservoir, Egypt would lose on its main source of scarce fresh water ressources.
A situation Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he is willing to avoid.
“I want to assure that we are firm in our commitment to addressing the concerns of downstream countries and reaching a mutually beneficial outcome in the context of the ongoing African Union-led process”, Ethiopia ‘s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stated in an recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Regional tensions and a local crisis Abiy Ahmed, whose country is engaged in complicated talks in the region, also faces a major challenge in his country.
Deadly unrest shook Ethiopia as long-marginalized groups, who seek more say in the country’s politics have taken their anger to the streets for the past few months.
The long awaited first free elections, two years after Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister have been postponed to 2021.
Opposition members, such as Oromo Federalist Congress leaderJawar Mohammed, have stated the government was using COVID 19 pandemic fears as a tool to stay in power.
The sports ministry said Wednesday it has referred a probe into a missing African Cup of Nations trophy which Egypt has possessed since 2010 to the prosecutor general after a string of explosive allegations.
“The ministry of youth and sports has referred the file of the loss of some important silverware from the warehouses of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) to the prosecutor general,” it said in a brief statement on its Facebook page.
The investigation was launched last week when celebrated ex-national goalkeeper Ahmed Shobair said the EFA found that the gold trophy, along with other awards from previous tournaments, had gone missing.
Officials were preparing to inaugurate a museum showcasing Egypt’s football memorabilia in time for the EFA’s centenary when the loss was realised, Shobair said on his popular talkshow.
Another former football hero Magdy Abdelghani, along with the EFA, waded into the debate suggesting ex-national team players and coaches Ahmed Hassan and Shawky Gharib knew of the 2010 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) trophy’s whereabouts.
But former football officials said it was looted during a fire in 2013 caused by protesters, known as the Ultras, at the EFA headquarters in Cairo.
The accusations prompted the sports ministry and EFA to kick off investigations that have been closely monitored by Egypt’s legions of fervent football fans.
Hassan and Gharib have both dismissed any link to the disappearance.
The continent’s football governing body, the Confederation of African Football, said Sunday it had “learnt with shock reports of missing AFCON trophies from the Egyptian Football Association secretariat”.
“Our doors are open and the @EFA can count on our support in the search for the priceless memorabilia,” it tweeted.
Egypt was allowed to keep the trophy on a permanent basis — with a new cup made — after the dominant run of the “Pharaohs”, as the national team is known, winning three titles in a row, in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Egypt is the most successful country in Africa Cup of Nations history, having won the trophy a total of seven times since 1957.
But the Pharaohs were knocked out at the last-16 stage last year when Egypt hosted the biennial tournament.
The only crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened on Tuesday for 72 hours, allowing people to leave the Palestinian enclave for the first time since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.
The Rafah crossing in southern Gaza was closed in March, as Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the strip, sought to guard against a major virus outbreak in the densely-populated territory with weak health infrastructure.
Rafah was opened for three days in April, but only to allow Gazans stranded abroad to return home. The crossing re-opened for limited two-way movement on Tuesday.
Gaza’s interior ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bazam said people who hold foreign passports, foreign residency permits or emergency medical needs “will be allowed to leave”.
Hundreds of Gazans had assembled before dawn at a waiting room preparing to exit, Reporters said.
Gaza resident Hatem al-Mansi told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) he needed medical care, but voiced concern about infection risks in Egypt, which has registered 95,000 COVID-19 cases, compared to just 81 in Gaza.
“There is a fear of being infected with COVID-19 in cars or buses in Egypt,” he told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “In Gaza, we don’t have that problem.”
Gaza, under an Israeli-enforced blockade since 2007, was uniquely protected against the coronavirus since access was already tightly controlled before the outbreak.
But the dire economic conditions and a poor healthcare system, partly caused by the blockade, also made Gaza especially vulnerable to the virus.
Hamas has maintained tight restrictions throughout the pandemic.
Anyone returning from Egypt will be placed in a dedicated quarantine facility for three weeks, said the head of infection control at Gaza’s health ministry, Rami Al-Abadala.
“Every returnee will be given a mask and will be tested upon entry,” he said.
A large contingent of police, doctors and nurses were stationed at Rafah early Tuesday to accommodate the returnees.
An Egyptian court Wednesday jailed the sixth woman in a week over TikTok videos, deeming the clips in which she dances and lip-syncs to popular songs to be “inciting debauchery”, a judicial source said.
The sentencing of Manar Samy to three years imprisonment is the latest in a string of such rulings against popular female social media users in Egypt over content posted to the image-sharing apps TikTok and Instagram.
Samy was arrested earlier in July on charges of “inciting debauchery, immorality and stirring up instincts” through her online videos, according to a prosecution statement.
Prosecutors found her videos — in which she dances and lip-syncs to popular music — to be “offensive to public decency” and to have been posted “with the aim of committing prostitution”.
According to the judicial source, the verdict can be appealed and “includes a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($19,000)”.
Her bail was set at 20,000 pounds, the source added.
Samy’s lawyer Hani Basyoni later told AFP the “bail has been paid but her release could be postponed until after the Eid al-Adha holiday ends on Monday”.
The court scheduled an appeal hearing for August 15, he added.
Wednesday’s ruling came days after another court sentenced five female social media influencers, Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others, to two years each in jail over content posted to TikTok.
In their short videos on the app, the young women appear doing satirical lip-syncs, comedic skits, dance videos and voice-overs — content that is widely popular around the world on the mobile app.
Hossam was arrested in April after posting a short clip on social media saying that girls could make money by working with her, a message that was interpreted as a call for prostitution.
In May, authorities arrested Adham, who had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram.
The targeting of female influencers rekindled a heated debate in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and “social norms”.
The clampdown is however not unusual in Egypt, where several belly dancers and pop singers have been targeted in recent years over online content deemed too racy or suggestive.
Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced belly dancer Sama al-Masry to three years in jail for inciting “debauchery” on social media over posts deemed sexually suggestive.
Activists and legal experts have long criticised the crackdown on individual freedoms under loosely worded offences.
“The charges of spreading debauchery or violating family values are very loose… and its definition is broad,” rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed previously told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
Rights groups say more freedoms have been curtailed in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who took office in 2014.
Egypt has in recent years enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.
An Egyptian court Monday sentenced five female social media influencers to two years in jail each on charges of violating public morals, a judicial source said.
The verdict against Haneen Hossam, Mowada al-Adham and three others came after they had posted footage on video-sharing app TikTok.
“The Cairo economic court sentenced Hossam, Adham and three others to two years after they were convicted of violating society’s values,” the judicial source said.
The ruling, which can be appealed, included a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,750) for each defendant, the source noted.
Hossam was arrested in April after posting a three-minute clip telling her 1.3 million followers that girls could make money by working with her.
In May, authorities arrested Adham who had posted satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram, where she has at least two million followers.
Lawyer Ahmed Hamza al-Bahqiry said the young women are facing separate charges over the sources of their funds.
The arrests highlight a social divide in the deeply conservative Muslim country over what constitutes individual freedoms and “social norms”.
Human rights lawyer Tarek al-Awadi has previously told AFP that the influencers’ arrests showed how society was wrestling with the rapid rise of modern communications technology.
Internet penetration has reached over 40 percent of Egypt’s youthful population of more than 100 million.
– ‘Dangerous indicator’ – “The verdict is shocking, though it was expected. We will see what happens on appeal,” said womens rights lawyer Intissar al-Saeed.
“It is still a dangerous indicator… Regardless of the divergent views on the content presented by the girls on TikTok, it still is not a reason for imprisonment.”
Egypt has in recent years cracked down on female singers and dancers over online content deemed too racy or suggestive.
Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced belly dancer Sama al-Masry to three years in jail for inciting “debauchery” on social media over posts deemed sexually suggestive.
In 2018, a female singer was detained for “incitement to debauchery” after an online video clip that included sensual oriental dance moves went viral.
The previous year, a female pop singer was sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges, also over a video deemed provocative. Her sentence was reduced to a year on appeal.
“The charges of spreading debauchery or violating family values are very loose… and its definition is broad,” said Saeed.
Egypt has in recent years enforced strict internet controls through laws allowing authorities to block websites seen as a threat to national security and to monitor personal social media accounts with over 5,000 followers.
At Istanbul meeting, Russia and Turkey agree to push for a ceasefire but Ankara says eastern commander must retreat.
Turkey and Russia agreed on Wednesday to press for a ceasefire in war-ravaged Libya, but Ankara said the leader of the eastern forces was illegitimate and must withdraw from key positions for a credible truce to take hold.
Moscow and Ankara are among the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict while supporting opposing sides. Russia backs the eastern-based forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, while Turkey has helped the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) repel Haftar’s attempt to storm the capital.
“We’ve just reached an agreement with Russia to work on a credible and sustainable ceasefire in Libya,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top security adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, told Reuters news agency.
Kalin said any deal must be based on a return to what he said were the Libyan front lines in 2015, requiring Haftar’s forces to pull back from the strategic city of Sirte – gateway to Libya’s eastern oilfields – and al-Jufra, an airbase near the centre of the country.
“For the ceasefire to be sustainable, Jufra and Sirte should be evacuated by Haftar’s forces,” Kalin said.
Battle for Sirte Turkish-backed forces allied with the UN-recognised government in the capital are mobilising on the edges of Sirte and have vowed to retake the Mediterranean city along with the inland al-Jufra airbase.
The United States has said Moscow sent warplanes to al-Jufra via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). Russia and the LNA both deny this.
Egypt, which also backs the LNA, has threatened to send troops into neighbouring Libya if the GNA and Turkish forces try to seize Sirte. The Egyptian parliament on Sunday gave a green light for possible military intervention.
Kalin said any Egyptian deployment in Libya would hamper efforts to end the fighting and would be risky for Cairo. “I believe it will be a dangerous military adventure for Egypt.”
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said on Wednesday achieving a political solution in Libya requires a “firm” response to “extremists” and foreign interference, which “not only threaten Egypt’s interests but also the security of Mediterranean countries”.
He noted a peace proposal announced in Cairo last month aimed at stabilising Libya and eliminating armed fighters and militias in the oil-rich country.
The proposal announced by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi included a ceasefire and a new elected presidential body representing the three Libyan regions. The east Libya camp accepted the proposal, dubbed the Cairo Declaration, while the Tripoli-based administration rejected it.
Wednesday’s joint agreement by Turkey and Russia on their ceasefire efforts included a call for measures to allow humanitarian access to those in need and efforts to promote political dialogue between the rival Libya sides.
But Kalin said Haftar had violated previous truce deals and was not a reliable partner, suggesting other figures in the east should play a role.
“We don’t take [Haftar] as a legitimate actor anyway,” he said. “But there is another parliament in Tobruk. There are other players in Benghazi. The negotiations will have to take place between them.”
The LNA has itself sent fighters and weapons to bolster its defence of Sirte, already badly battered from earlier phases of warfare and chaos since the 2011 revolution against longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it backs a ceasefire and political talks that would culminate in united governing authorities. Russia has received senior delegations from both sides of the Libyan conflict in Moscow and tried and failed to get Haftar to sign up to a ceasefire agreement.
‘All kinds of bullying’ Shukry’s comments came in separate phone calls with France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, according to a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry.
Erdogan, meanwhile, chaired a high-level security meeting that focused on Libya on Wednesday.
A statement released at the end of the National Security Council meeting said Turkey would not hesitate to take all steps necessary against “all kinds of bullying” taking place in Libya.
The council promised to “stand by the people of Libya against any tyranny”.
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and other foreign powers have provided Haftar’s forces with critical military assistance.
Russia also sent hundreds of mercenaries through the Wagner Group, a private military company.
Egyptian authorities have done little to improve conditions for prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic, rights groups say.
Rights groups and the UN have made numerous calls since the coronavirus outbreak for Egypt to improve conditions for prisoners, but the country has done little to address the crisis, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.
At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died in Egypt, most likely from COVID-19 complications in 10 detention facilities as of July 15, according to HRW’s latest report published on Monday.
Prisoners have shown COVID-19 symptoms, but have had insufficient medical care and no access to testing. Authorities have done little to isolate prisoners who show symptoms and have further imposed a strict information blackout amid the pandemic, the New York-based rights group said.
Last week, Egyptian journalist Mohamed Monir, 65, died after contracting the coronavirus during the two weeks he spent in pretrial detention at Cairo’s notorious Tora prison.
The veteran journalist was arrested in June on charges of joining “a terrorist group”, spreading false news, and misusing social media after appearing on Al Jazeera Media Network, which is banned by Egypt.
Unique journalist 'Mahmoud Hussein' has spent more than 1,307 days in prison without trial.
An Egyptian national, Hussein was arrested in December 2016 on “dubious charges”, according to HRW, shortly after his arrival in Egypt on a personal visit.
Last year, an Egyptian court rejected an order by the state prosecutor to release him. He remains detained in Tora Tahqiq prison, one of Egypt’s most infamous facilities, under inhumane conditions.
Amr Magdi, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) that, so far, three inmates have died of COVID-19 in Tora Tahqiq prison, as well as a prison employee.
“This is very concerning,” Magdi said. “We still call for [Hussein’s] immediate release, and it is extremely outrageous that he has even exceeded the two-year limit for pretrial detention in Egyptian law, which is already abusive.
“Egyptian authorities don’t just disrespect international norms, they even [violate] their own abusive laws,” Magdi said.
According to the Geneva-based Committee for Justice, there are 149 suspected cases of coronavirus in Egyptian prisons and detention facilities.
Prisoners released In May, the World Health Organization released a joint statement with UN agencies stating the “health response to COVID-19 in closed settings alone is insufficient” and urged governments to consider prisoner releases.
A month prior, the UN urged Egypt to release prisoners “convicted of non-violent offences and those who are in pretrial detention who make up just below one-third of those in jail”.
It noted Egypt’s detention facilities are often overcrowded, unhygienic and lack resources.
Official records show Egyptian authorities have released about 13,000 prisoners since late February, but that number is not enough to ease overcrowding, according to HRW.
Among the prisoners freed, some include those convicted of murder and other serious crimes.
“They have released several thousand prisoners, but these tend to be people who have a short time left to serve in their sentences,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).
“What is most notable is that these releases did not include any of the people arrested on political grounds and who are particularly the ones who have not been tried. We know people who have been … in custody under so-called investigation for months and months.
“They haven’t been accused of anything, haven’t been charged with anything, they’ve had no trial. Notably, none of them, or very few of them, have been released,” Stark said.
“Clearly, [the Egyptian authorities] are not listening.”
‘Strict information lockdown’ According to international human rights law, prisoners should receive the same standard of healthcare that is available in the community.
Egyptian prison laws also state that prison doctors must protect inmates from “epidemic diseases”, including providing medical quarantine and to immediately inform a prisoner’s family in case of serious illness.
But a prisoner at the Tora Tahqiq prison told HRW the protection measures taken by authorities were merely “decorative”.
In March, the prison administration offered PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests for two inmates only, and no other tests were provided even though several prisoners developed a respiratory illness.
Since a ban on prison visits was implemented on March 10, thousands of inmates have been kept in incommunicado detention with little if any communication with lawyers and family members, as part of an “information blackout”, according to the report by HRW.
“There are some notable cases of brothers and sisters going to get news of the health of their loved one in prison and not being able to get any information,” Stark said.
“There’s a very strict information lockdown … Egyptian authorities have been behaving very badly.”
Over the years, Egypt has developed a track record for its lack of judicial or independent oversight.
HRW noted since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power in 2013 in a coup, most likely hundreds of prisoners have died in detention, many following torture or inadequate care.
But despite the warnings issued by the UN and rights groups, countries worldwide have done little to apply pressure on Egypt to comply with international law.
“We haven’t seen too much interest on the part of other countries – the US, Italy, Germany, France, UK – countries that have big arms deals with the Egyptian military,” Stark said.
Move comes as Libya gov’t and Turkey demand an end of foreign intervention in support of commander Khalifa Haftar.
Egypt’s parliament authorised the deployment of troops outside the country after the president threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in neighbouring Libya.
The parliament unanimously approved “the deployment of members of the Egyptian armed forces on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to defend Egyptian national security … against criminal armed militias and foreign terrorist elements”, it said in a statement.
The deployment would be made on a “western front” – a likely reference to western neighbour Libya. The move could bring Egypt and Turkey – which support rival sides in Libya’s chaotic proxy war – into direct confrontation.
Egypt’s House of Representatives, packed with supporters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, approved the plan after a closed-door session on Monday.
Libya gov’t vows response after base hit by ‘foreign air force’ Stephanie Williams, acting head of the UN support mission in Libya, on Monday called for an “immediate ceasefire … to spare the 125,000 civilians who remain in harm’s way and for an end to the blatant violations of the UN arms embargo”.
Her comments came following her meeting on Sunday with the president of neighbouring Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
‘Putschist Haftar’ Turkey, meanwhile, demanded an “immediate” end to the support for rebel commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya after trilateral talks held in Ankara between Libyan, Turkish, and Maltese officials on Monday.
“It is essential that all kind of help and support given to putschist Haftar – which prohibits ensuring Libya’s peace, tranquillity, security, and territorial integrity – ends immediately,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said.
Haftar’s backers should “stop supporting an unrealistic and wrong project”, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga said.
Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia have been backing Haftar’s eastern-based forces in the conflict, while Turkey supports the GNA.
An Egyptian intervention would further destabilise oil-rich Libya.
Egypt’s president warned in June that any attack on Sirte or the inland al-Jufra airbase would prompt Cairo to intervene militarily, purportedly to protect its western border with Libya.
The GNA denounced Egypt’s threat of military intervention in the North African nation, labelling it a “declaration of war”.
Qatar’s state minister for defence affairs met on Monday with the Turkish defence minister and Libya’s minister of interior to discuss the latest developments in Libya, Qatar’s defence ministry said.
Regional proxy war Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
The country is now split between a government in the east, allied with Haftar, and one in Tripoli, in the west, recognised by the United Nations.
The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fuelled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country.
The United States has grown increasingly concerned about Moscow’s growing influence in Libya, where hundreds of Russian mercenaries backed a failed attempt by Haftar’s forces to capture Tripoli.
In a call on Monday with US President Donald Trump, el-Sisi emphasised Egypt’s aim to “prevent further deterioration of security in Libya”, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidential spokesman. It said the two leaders agreed on maintaining a ceasefire and avoiding a military escalation in Libya.
Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram daily reported on Sunday the vote in Parliament was intended to mandate el-Sisi to “intervene militarily in Libya to help defend the western neighbour against Turkish aggression”.
Last week, el-Sisi hosted dozens of tribal leaders loyal to Haftar in Cairo, where he repeated that Egypt would “not stand idly by in the face of moves that pose a direct threat to security”.
Libya’s eastern-based parliament that supports Haftar also urged el-Sisi to send troops.
GNA’s upper hand Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive to take Tripoli from the GNA in April last year, but the campaign stalemated after reaching the outskirts of the Libyan capital.
The LNA suffered a blow last month when GNA forces – with Turkish air and logistics support – pushed it back and gained the upper hand in the fighting.
The Tripoli forces retook the capital’s airport, all main entrance and exit points to the city, and a string of key towns in the region. GNA troops pushed on eastward vowing to also retake Sirte, which Haftar captured earlier this year.
Seizing the strategic city would open the door for the Turkish-backed forces to advance even further eastward and potentially take vital oil installations, terminals and fields now under Haftar’s control.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan on Tuesday urged Israel to abandon plans to begin annexing settlements in the West Bank, warning such action could have “consequences” for relations.
“We concur that any annexation of Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 would be a violation of international law and imperil the foundations of the peace process,” the ministers said in a statement after a joint video conference.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had set July 1 as the date when it could begin to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.
The move was endorsed by a Middle East plan unveiled by US President Donald Trump in January.
Netanyahu’s office made no announcement on July 1 as expected, but said talks were continuing with US officials and Israeli security chiefs.
“We would not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders that are not agreed by both parties in the conflict,” the ministers warned in the statement issued by the German foreign ministry.
“We also concur that such a step would have serious consequences for the security and stability of the region, and would constitute a major obstacle to efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive and just peace,” they said.
“It could also have consequences for the relationship with Israel,” they added, underlining their commitment to a two-state solution based on international law.
The EU has in recent weeks mounted a diplomatic campaign against annexation, highlighted by a visit to Jerusalem by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to raise a concern about the prospective plans.
But the bloc cannot threaten Israel with formal sanctions without unanimous support among members.
After occupying the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel began establishing a network of settlements the following decade. Construction continues to this day.
Despite being viewed as illegal under international law, the settler population has jumped by 50 percent over the past decade.
The IMF board on Friday approved a one-year, $5.2 billion financing package for Egypt to help the country alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new funding under a standby arrangement comes on top of $2.8 billion in emergency aid the IMF board approved a month ago, although at the time officials acknowledged that more help would be needed.
The IMF noted Cairo had “a strong track record” of implementing economic reforms under fund-supported programs over the past four years, and the new loan will help put it on strong footing for recovery.
“Egypt was one of the fastest-growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the IMF said in a statement. “However, the significant domestic and global disruptions from the pandemic have worsened the economic outlook and reshuffled policy priorities.”
The aid will focus first on health and social spending, as well as financial stability to keep a lid on inflation.
Fund staff agreed with authorities on the terms of the loan in early June, and said the funds also will open the doors to financing from other lenders and help support job creation by the private sector.
Egypt has suffered over 2,500 COVID-19 fatalities with over 61,000 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
Egyptian president warned of ‘direct’ intervention in Libya, citing the need to protect Egypt’s porous border.
Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has denounced Egypt’s warning of military intervention in Libya, labelling it a “declaration of war”.
On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi warned that if pro-GNA forces advanced on the strategic city of Sirte – some 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli – it could provoke a “direct” intervention by Cairo.
He also ordered the Egyptian army to be ready to carry out missions inside or outside of the country to protect its national security amid tensions over Turkey’s intervention in Libya.
In response, the GNA said in a statement that Egypt’s move was “a hostile act and direct interference, and amounts to a declaration of war”.
The statement comes on the eve of a virtual meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Libya, in which the GNA declined to participate.
For the Libyan state, “interference in its internal affairs, attacks on its sovereignty, whether by declarations … like those of the Egyptian president or by support for putschists, militias and mercenaries, is unacceptable”, the GNA said.
It said it was open to “all impartial mediation … under the aegis of the UN” but rejected “unilateral or extrajudicial initiatives”.
Oil-rich Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed 2011 uprising toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the Tripoli-based GNA against renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who claims legitimacy from an eastern-based elected parliament.
Haftar has been trying unsuccessfully to seize the capital since April 2019, with support from Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since the start of June, increased Turkish support has enabled pro-GNA forces to take control of northwest Libya, ending Haftar’s assault on Tripoli.
The GNA advance is now halted outside the coastal city of Sirte, a strategic access point to Libya’s key oil fields which remains under Haftar’s control.
Sirte and Al-Jufra to the south represent a “red line”, el-Sisi said in a television broadcast on Saturday, citing the need to protect Egypt’s porous border.
If this line is crossed, Egyptian forces will directly intervene in Libya, el-Sisi said.
“All of Libya is a red line,” the GNA responded. “Whatever the dispute between Libyans, we will not allow our people to be insulted or threatened.”
But the speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament, Aguila Saleh, defended el-Sisi’s declaration, saying in a Sunday statement that the Egyptian president was “responding to our appeal to the Egyptian parliament” last January in which Saleh called for Egyptian intervention in Libya.
And on Sunday, the Jordanian foreign ministry issued a statement saying Amman supports Cairo “against any threat to the security and stability” of Egypt.
It came after the foreign ministers of both countries discussed the Libya conflict over the phone.
Abdurrahman Shater, official with UN-recognised GNA, warns Egypt to stop its intervention and backing of Khalifa Haftar.
Libya’s internationally recognised government has denounced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s threats of military intervention, saying his comments were akin to “beating the drums of war”.
El-Sisi on Saturday warned forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli not to cross the current front line between them and forces loyal to renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, whom Cairo backs.
The Egyptian president, who visited an airbase in Matrouh near the Libyan border, alluded to the possibility of sending “external military missions if required” adding that “any direct intervention in Libya has already become legitimate internationally”.
Abdurrahman Shater, a member of the GNA-allied Libyan High Council of State, said his country’s security and democracy have been in danger since el-Sisi insisted on bringing in military troops that Libyans did not accept.
“Take your hands off us, do not repeat the tragedy in Yemen,” he tweeted.
Shater also said Egypt has intervened in Libya’s internal affairs for four years.
El-Sisi told his army to “be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders, or if necessary outside our borders”.
“Sirte and Jufra are a red line,” he said.
Conflict in Libya: Another initiative Forces loyal to the GNA, which is headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, have driven Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) from large swaths of territory in the west of the country as well as strategic towns near the capital, Tripoli.
GNA forces have now launched a campaign, moving eastwards, to capture the Mediterranean city of Sirte from forces loyal to Haftar, who was forced to offer a ceasefire after facing a string of defeats in recent weeks.
The ceasefire, backed by Cairo, has been rejected by the GNA and its backer Ankara, which on Saturday demanded that the LNA withdraw from Sirte.
The Egyptian president stressed “any direct interference from Egypt [in Libya] has now acquired international legitimacy, either with the right to self-defence or at the request of the only legitimate elected authority in Libya, which is the House of Representatives [Tobruk].”
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from the Libyan city of Misrata, said el-Sisi’s remarks on Saturday were largely ignored by the GNA and its forces.
“A GNA military commander we spoke to earlier said their forces are adamant and that they will enter Sirte. It’s important to note that these are forces know the territory well,” Traina said.
“In 2011, forces primarily from Misrata were responsible for entering Sirte and killing longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.”
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday told the Saudi-based Al Arabiya TV his country prioritised a political solution to the conflict, adding that the GNA misinterpreted el-Sisi’s comments.
With Turkish support, the GNA has reversed a 14-month assault on the capital by the forces loyal to Haftar, who is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have expressed their support for the Egyptian president’s statements.
“Saudi Arabia stands by and supports Egypt on the right to protect its borders and people,” Saudi Arabia official news agency said in a statement.
Additionally, the UAE foreign ministry said it supports all actions by Egypt to ensure its stability and security.
The LNA still controls eastern and southern Libya, including most of the country’s oil facilities, and the city of Sirte, at the centre of a recent military escalation.
The nomination of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Nigeria’s candidate for the position of the Director-General (DG) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been opposed by the Egyptian government.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday announced the nomination of Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of finance, for the position.
Buhari had said that Nigeria was withdrawing its previous nominee for the position, Yonov Frederick Agah and replacing him with the former finance minister.
But the Egyptian government, barely 24 hours after the nomination, registered its opposition to it.
The northern African country, in a letter to the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures for the election, asked that Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination be rejected.
The Egyptian government argued in its communication No. 081 /2020- AU of June 5, 2020, to the Permanent Missions of the WTO Member States of the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures, that Nigeria’s decision to withdraw Agah’s candidature meant it had forfeited its chance to participate in the race.
In a memo it sent to the African Union Commission (Commissioner of Political Affairs/Office of Legal Counsel), Egypt maintained that as far as it was concerned, three candidates, representing Benin Republic, Egypt and Nigeria, had already obtained the endorsement of the Executive Council to contest the position of the WTO Director General vide its decision EX.CL/December. 1090(XXXVI) of February 2020.
It named the three candidates to include Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin, Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt Arab Republic, and Mr Agah of Nigeria.
The Egyptian government said since Agah’s candidature had been withdrawn that it was urging the Ministerial Committee on Candidatures to officially inform the African Group in Geneva about the development and Nigeria’s disqualification.
According to Egypt, the committee should acknowledge that “Abdulhameed Mamdouh of the Arab Republic of Egypt and Eloi Laourou of the Republic of Benin are currently the only two endorsed African candidates.”
It added in the memo, “In this context, the Permanent Mission of Egypt would like to highlight that Government of Egypt is undertaking consultations with the Government Benin with the aim of reaching a consensus on one African candidate between the only two currently endorsed African candidates, and will communicate the outcomes of these consultations to the esteemed Ministerial Committee at the soonest possible date.”
Egypt‘a opposition to Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination is coming despite the fact that the July 8, 2020, deadline for the closure of nominations for the elections is still more than a month away.
Buhari, in his diplomatic communication through the Nigerian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the African Union (AU) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, did not give reasons for the withdrawal of Mr Agah’s candidacy.
However, it is believed that the Nigerian leader may have considered Okonjo-Iweala’s global stature as a former Managing Director (operations) of the World Bank, finance expert, economist and international development professional with more than 30 years of experience, to nominate her for the position.